Berry H. (Nick) Tew Jr.
Geological Survey of Alabama and The University of Alabama
2016 AGI Medal in Memory of Ian Campbell
Presented to Berry H. (Nick) Tew Jr.
Citation by Ernest A. Mancini and Scott W. Tinker
For Berry H. (Nick) Tew, Jr., geoscientist, educator, regulator, administrator, and public servant, in recognition of his long-term and impactful contributions to the geosciences as Alabama state geologist, University of Alabama research professor, and a leader in the geoscience profession.
Berry H. (Nick) Tew, Jr., Ph.D., is most deserving to receive the AGI Medal in Memory of Ian Campbell for Superlative Service to the Geosciences for his long-term and impactful contributions to the geoscience profession. Nick has achieved national acclaim in geoscientific research and education and is noted for his candor, integrity, and diplomacy. As Alabama state geologist and oil & gas supervisor and research professor at the University of Alabama, Nick embodies the roles of geoscientist, educator, regulator, administrator, and public servant. Nick has served as president of the Association of American State Geologists and the American Geosciences Institute and has played a major role in the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, where he has made lasting contributions to the public understanding of oil and gas development and regulation. He has been commended by the governor of Alabama and the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives for outstanding leadership and service to the state and is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. Nick is a true geo-statesman, balancing thoughtful science and varied public perspectives to accomplish tangible societal benefit.
Nick was born in 1954 in Mobile and grew up in York, Sumter County, Alabama. In this rural setting, Nick’s lifetime appreciation of the outdoors and natural history was established. Growing up in socially turbulent times in the south left a lasting impression and instilled in Nick a deep and abiding sense that everyone is owed respect, dignity, attention, and fair treatment. This philosophy has served him well throughout his life and in leadership positions, where an appreciation of diverse perspectives and positions and differences in culture is of paramount importance.
Nick first attended Livingston University, and in 1975, he transferred to the University of Alabama (UA) in Tuscaloosa, intent on majoring in English. However, his interest in Native American and other cultures was enhanced when he enrolled in an archeological field course and, subsequently, he changed his major to Anthropology. Nick graduated from the UA with a B.A. in 1977. During his senior year, Nick had found an elective geology course to be fascinating and decided to pursue a degree in geology. He graduated with a B.S. in geology in 1981.
After graduation, Nick joined Cities Service Oil and Gas Company in Jackson, Mississippi, as an exploration geologist. Although he found the petroleum industry rewarding, Nick realized that he desired advanced degrees and that his strong interests in research and publication could be better pursued elsewhere. Ernie Mancini, Nick’s former professor at the UA and newly appointed state geologist, began recruiting him to join the Geological Survey of Alabama (GSA) and State Oil and Gas Board (OGB). Nick returned to Tuscaloosa in 1984 and became one of the important new hires at the agencies. In Tuscaloosa, he met his future wife, Rhonda Mock, and they were married in 1986. Rhonda has strongly supported Nick in his life and career. Their daughter, Kalyn, shows great promise as a geologist, having earned a B.S. in geology and is working on an M.S. degree in the Department of Geological Sciences at the UA.
In his early years at the GSA, Nick worked on various geologic projects that facilitated development of natural resources of the state. This research also served to advance the science of sequence stratigraphy, using the classical outcrop areas of Alabama and Mississippi as a laboratory. In addition, Nick, while continuing to work full time, had enrolled in the graduate program in geology at UA. His GSA work on the sequence stratigraphy of the Oligocene strata of southwest Alabama and southeast Mississippi contributed to his master’s thesis and a degree in 1991. His graduate studies culminated with a Ph.D. degree in geology in 1999. Nick’s dissertation research provided an interpretation of the depositional setting and mechanisms for the cyclostratigraphy observed in Cretaceous strata in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. His work resulted in numerous publications, technical presentations, workshops and geologic field excursions.
By the early 1990s, geological surveys were adopting geographic information systems technology for geologic mapping and the management of geologic data. Nick had long shown an aptitude for computer technology, and he was promoted to section head to build and direct a GIS and remote sensing program. Under Nick’s leadership, geospatial data management and visualization technology was integrated into virtually all aspects of GSA’s operations. Further, the GSA GIS Program became widely recognized as leading in this field and was soon spearheading GIS development in Alabama state government.
In 2002, Nick was appointed by the president of the University of Alabama, with the concurrence of the governor, to serve as Alabama’s state geologist and oil and gas supervisor. He also was appointed adjunct professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at UA. In 2016, Nick accepted an appointment as director of the Center for Sedimentary Basin Studies and research professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, in addition to duties as state geologist.
Nick has proved to be a very able leader. He has worked closely with three Alabama governors and has developed excellent relationships with Alabama legislators. He is serving as chair of the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group, the governor’s official representative to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, an Alabama Natural Resource trustee, and the Gulf of Mexico Region representative on the Governance Coordinating Committee for the National Ocean Council. In 2013, he received the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission’s E.W. Marland Award, the Commission’s highest honor, for his exceptional service. He has also been generous with his time in service activities that have benefitted Alabama, the geoscientific community, and the nation. He is a member of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Roundtable on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Resources; National Petroleum Council; American Geosciences Institute Foundation Board of Trustees; Board of the State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange; and Board and Executive Committee of the Ground Water Protection Council.
Nick has served in numerous leadership positions in geoscience organizations. As treasurer for the American Association of State Geologists, he was instrumental in establishing the Association’s Foundation, and as president, Nick focused attention on the future direction of the organization and laid the groundwork for a strategic visioning process for AASG. As a member of the Executive Committee of the American Geosciences Institute, he was deeply involved with the development and implementation of the Center for Geoscience and Society, and as president, Nick placed a high priority on supporting Center development and on effective outreach to AGI member societies.
2016 AGI Medal in Memory of Ian Campbell — Response by Berry H. (Nick) Tew Jr.
Receiving the 2016 AGI Medal in Memory of Ian Campbell for Superlative Service to the Geosciences is one of the most significant highlights of my career and I want to thank the American Geosciences Institute for this distinct honor. I especially want to express appreciation to Ernie Mancini and Scott Tinker for their kind and generous citation and their longtime friendship and support. I am also very grateful to the Association of American State Geologists for nominating me and to those that supported the nomination.
Growing up in a small, west-central Alabama town, I didn’t know that I was destined to become a geoscientist and certainly didn’t know I would be afforded all of the opportunities and good fortune that I have enjoyed. I also didn’t know that Sumter County was diagonally crossed by the Cretaceous-Paleogene contact, that my home was situated on the outcrop of the Porters Creek Clay, or that geologically related natural resources had a major role in the building and maintenance of Alabama, but all of these elements came into play as time progressed.
My home was in timber country and I grew up in a sawmill family. As a boy, I spent considerable time on the mill yard and in the logging woods, talking to, and learning from, hardworking, hard living men—woodlore, hunting, fishing, farming, and more. Forests and creeks, lakes and pastures were as close as a hike along the railroad tracks or a bike ride down a red dirt road. In this setting, my appreciation of the outdoors, natural history, and ancient cultures began early with a keen interest in the rocks, fossils, plants, animals, and Native American artifacts that were abundant in my surroundings.
Thus, it is not really surprising that my path eventually led through archeology to geology. I cannot imagine a more rewarding, more interesting, and downright fun journey than the one I’ve had and continue to have. I’ve enjoyed my work, the people and places I’ve encountered, and the opportunities that I have had to give back, through service activities, to the profession that has been so good to me.
Nothing of importance is achieved on our own. Those who surround us provide the necessary environment that nurtures success and accomplishment. I have been incredibly lucky to have a loving and supportive family—my wife, Rhonda, my daughter, Kalyn, and my parents, Berry and Edna Tew. My parents made sure that I had the wherewithal for my early education and, along with Rhonda and Kalyn, provided the encouragement and support I needed to complete advanced degrees and be successful in my career. They share in this award with me.
Ernie Mancini has been my friend, mentor, and colleague for almost 40 years. He was my professor at the University of Alabama, instructing me in stratigraphy, petroleum geology, paleoecology, and many other areas. When Ernie became state geologist of Alabama, he reached out to some of his former students to consider working with him at the Geological Survey of Alabama and State Oil and Gas Board and, fortunately, I was one of those he called.
In 1984, I decided to return to Tuscaloosa from industry and this was one of the best decisions of my life, both professionally and personally. Soon after returning, I met Rhonda, my bride-to-be. At the Survey, I was able to explore Alabama and study its fascinating and incredibly diverse geology with talented colleagues. Ernie and I spent many long, hot days in the field, examining classical Mesozoic and Cenozoic outcrops in the Gulf Coastal Plain, dodging water moccasins and mosquitoes, measuring sections and collecting samples, and, ultimately, publishing our work. Things came full circle for me as we studied the Cretaceous-Paleogene contact at Moscow Landing, a river bluff in my home county, and worked numerous outcrops of the Porters Creek Clay, the unit on which my childhood home was situated. These were great times.
Ernie gave me the opportunity to manage a nascent GIS and Remote Sensing Program at the Survey, which rapidly grew. This allowed me to gain experience in the administration of geoscientific endeavor and afforded me with a chance to have significant interaction with local, state, and federal agencies, including participation in activities at the national level. This background served me well when, in 2002, I was appointed state geologist of Alabama and director of the Geological Survey of Alabama and State Oil and Gas Board.
At the Survey and Board, I have had outstanding colleagues who have worked hard to ensure the success of our programs and to further an appreciation of the critical importance of our work to the state and nation. Alabama has a significant endowment of geologically hosted natural resources—oil and gas, coal, water, nonfuel minerals—and the work of the Survey and Board has contributed in very tangible ways to the development and stewardship of these resources to the betterment of our citizens and our economy. The agencies are held in high regard in Alabama state government, and among our many stakeholders, for productivity, high quality of work and service, and the positive impacts of agency programs and projects. This is a tribute to the many fine individuals that I have had the pleasure to work with, as well as those that came before. Thanks to all of them.
The University of Alabama is undergoing phenomenal expansion and advancement and these are exciting times on campus. Recently, I eagerly accepted an enhanced role in the Department of Geological Sciences through an appointment as research professor and director of the Center for Sedimentary Basin Studies. DGS has a dynamic and forward-looking faculty motivated to build on past successes and achieve new heights. Academic programs are flourishing and we have cadre of outstanding, talented students, including, I’m proud to say, my daughter. It is invigorating to be engaged with the next generation of geoscientists and to have an opportunity to mentor not only students, but also early career faculty. I could not be more enthusiastic about the prospect of giving back in this way to my alma mater, to which I owe so much.
There are several colleagues affiliated with the agencies or UA who merit special thanks for the support they have given me throughout the years. These include Bennett Bearden, Irene Burgess, Joe Benson, Tom Joiner, the late Doug Jones, Bob Mink, Pat O’Neil, Ed Osborne, Marvin Rogers, and Charlie Smith.
Just as others share our achievements and successes, we follow in the footsteps of those that have come before. In considering the careers of Dr. Ian Campbell and the previous recipients of the Campbell Medal, I am humbled. These remarkable individuals have provided a template that defines significant and unselfish service to the geosciences and, importantly, to society. It is very meaningful to me that the list includes some especially important friends, colleagues, and mentors—Ernie, of course, along with Jon Price, Peter Scholle, and the late Phil LaMoreaux. I am proud to be in their company, as well as that of the other distinguished awardees, including a number that I have had the pleasure to work with and call friends. This is very good company, indeed, and I am grateful.